The Phased Approach to Implementation

Over the past 11 years I have, as a consultant and project manager, implemented and managed many projects in the Identity Management field. These projects have varied from very small to enterprise level solutions. This experience has given me quite an insight into how the business works, how to gauge customer expectations, and even how to anticipate some requirements before they are provided. One important thing I’ve picked up along the way however, is the ability to recognize the need for phases within projects.

Phasing is not necessary for every project, of course, and teaching our consultants how to determine when phases are required is one of the keys to successful implementations. With the ever-changing technologies used in organizations, the need for a phased approach is on the rise. These technologies themselves often dictate the need for, and number of phases for a project.

A phased approach has many advantages, one being the project timeline. Often a project is rushed due to timeline constraints and the players involved simply charge forward to get the project completed. This will result in missing requirements as well as a lack of proper testing and tweaking – which results in a lackluster outcome. Using phases can help avoid this wasted effort. If time is spent qualifying requirements up-front, everyone involved will be able to plan and schedule the project efficiently. Resources can be scheduled and deployed as needed, depending on the project phase requirements. The ‘sink or swim’ approach can be quite overwhelming on staff and leaves them with little time to adjust to change. Incremental change in phases mitigates these teething problems. An example of a succeful phased implementation can be seen in the DeKalb County School Disctrict Case Study.

Additionally, this method promotes quality work due to the nature of phasing itself, which breaks the project into smaller components to be produced and reviewed. The resource(s) work to produce the product based on the requirements for the phase they are assigned. Once the production is complete, then the project manager (or other resource assigned to managing the phase/project) reviews the end result of the phase, often with the customer.

Working with the customer through the phases of a project instills confidence in the project, the resources working on the project, and the company providing the solution. As the project proceeds through phases and their associated deliverables, the customer is provided a transparency they are not otherwise afforded which gives them the ability to deal with issues the project may encounter, or sudden new requirements. This improves the ease of implementations as well as creates strong relationships between the solution provider and its customers.